The obvious benefit of written professional communication is the efficiency – in person conversations are both powerful and un-scalable.
The downside is that it strips away tone and, thus, makes it really easy to misunderstand intent.
Given that, I’ve found myself increasingly appreciative of the smiley. It is amazing how a colon and a closing bracket can combine to bring warmth and humor into an otherwise staid/serious written exchange. But, in my limited experience at least, they do.. and they likely prevent many a misunderstanding in that process.
The small things are the big things. :)